Can this really be true? Can Air‘s hugely acclaimed debut Moon Safari really be twenty years old? Apparently, yes.
Of course, it wasn’t really quite their debut – the preceding three years had seen the release of a number of one-off singles and the compilation EP Premièrs Symptômes, but it was the sudden success of Sexy Boy that would cast them into the limelight in early 1998.
The album opens with the glorious La Femme d’Argent, a seven-minute Hammond organ-driven instrumental that drops us gently into the album. There’s really nothing to fault here – the jazzy bassline and sampled vocals come together perfectly, and I suspect you might find you’re in love with this album barely half way into the first track.
The lead single Sexy Boy was all over the charts in early 1998, so by the time you heard it on the album, you would have known it well already. Honestly, despite a pretty good level of French, particularly back in 1998, I’ve never really had much idea what they were singing about, but it’s a catchy song nonetheless.
I think my favourite track on here is the third single All I Need, with its stunning vocals from Beth Hirsch. It’s beautifully laid back, but also sweet and deeply meaningful.
The singles were essentially all the uptempo tracks – or as uptempo as anything on here is – so it’s hardly surprising that we get through them all in one go. Second single Kelly Watch the Stars is next, a particularly daft vocal coupled with an exceptional instrumental which somehow really comes together rather well.
After all this energy, it’s time for something a little more laid back. The beautiful Talisman is next, slowing things down beautifully, and is followed by an adorable vocal track Remember, the first track on here that could perhaps be faulted for being a little on the bland side. But not by much.
Then Beth Hirsch is back for another adorable track, You Make it Easy, a slow, catchy piano piece which has been transformed into a gloriously chilled out song. Honestly, if you’re less than a little obsessed with this album by this point, you really do have no soul.
So of course, Ce Matin Là is fantastic, and New Star in the Sky is a sweet, adorable lullaby – there may be few surprises left at this end of the album, but that’s hardly what you want at this stage. This is an album which has spent 110 weeks on the UK chart in the last two decades, so I think it’s fair to say that there’s some consensus on this matter.
Air‘s career may have taken some slightly eccentric twists and turns, but in the early stages, they were truly brilliant. Moon Safari is as close to flawless as you could ever hope to get, and strongly deserving of the two years it’s spent on the charts.
Ideally, you want the multi-CD anniversary version, which gets you a disc of rarities and a DVD with all the videos, but you can get most of the pieces separately. Start with the main album here.